BY MFUNDO MASHIYA
Anika Pretorius, Masters student in the Science Faculty, is a high profile athlete at Stellenbosch University (SU). Her incredible story is an inspiration to many. Pretorius lost 90% to 95% of her eyesight when she was in grade 7. This changed her life drastically. Her sports career changed too. Little did the world know that she was a superstar in the making.
Born and bred in Carletonville, Pretorius started her journey in sports as a gymnast and high jumper. When she lost her eyesight, she switched her focus to athletics, because she could no longer compete as a gymnast. Her familiarity with track and field events made it easier to adapt. Remarkably, she could resume with athletics as her main sport.
Pretorius wanted to continue with high jump, but discovered that she could not compete. There was no high jump event for disabled athletes. After switching to long jump, she was told again that she could no longer compete. Pretorius became a 100m sprinter, and has not changed since.
Pretorius has faced many challenges. She lost her eyesight, could not take part in many sports and faced injuries. The sprinter says that injuries have been one of her biggest challenges. She has been ruled out of several competitions because of her injuries. Most notably, she could not compete in the 2015 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships in Dubai. She is currently recovering from a bruised bone.
“My injuries have helped me become more resilient. Without them I might not [have been] here today,” said Pretorius.
Her knowledge in sports science, her field of study, has helped her overcome her injuries. She had to become more creative and innovative with her training routines and nutrition. She came up with new ways of adapting her training sessions to suit particular injuries, and this has made a big impact on her recovery.
Pretorius is completing her masters degree while she is training to compete in this year’s Paralympic Games in Tokyo. The final team for the event has not been selected. Pretorius is confident in her ability and all the work she has put into her athletics.
“It’s the uphills that make you the strongest,” said the sprinter. Pretorius is in a positive state of mind and is looking forward to the games later this year.